Governor Cuomo Again Talks Marijuana Legalization, This Time to Offset Budget Deficit from COVID-19

“There are a lot of reasons to get it done, but one of the benefits is it also brings in revenue, and all states — but especially this state — we need revenue and we’re going to be searching the cupboards for revenue,” Govern Andrew Cuomo stated during a press conference recently, in support of his new book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Cuomo, New York’s 56th Governor since first taking office in 2011, has often broached the topic of marijuana legalization.  While supporting legalization has proven a useful tool in gaining broader support around the state, the Governor has repeatedly fallen back on his commitment to consistently press for legislation.  While two pieces of such legislation have been brought to the state’s legislature in recent history, both were rejected as lawmakers argued over the allocation of tax revenue and whether counties could opt out of legalization altogether.

Governor Cuomo did sign a bill in 2019 reducing the criminal punishment for unlawful possession of marijuana.  The act also stripped penalties for those carrying less than two ounces.  Higher charges still exist for the stocking and distribution of marijuana for profit, even when carrying no penalty for possession in small quantities. Marijuana in small quantities, even though decriminalized, is still classified as an illegal substance by New York State Law.  You can be given a violation with an accompanying fine for any small amount.

While in recent years, New York’s Democrat and Republican lawmakers have come out in favor of legalization, the bogging question of how to spread the income from a new taxable market withholds them from enacting legislation.

Colorado, which legalized the possession, distribution, and sale of marijuana in 2014, has seen over a billion dollars in tax revenue since disposing of their laws on the substance.